Caleb Casas, junior management and marketing major from Houston, TX.
Over spring break, the Griggs Center and Halbert Institute partnered to send a group of students led by Dodd Roberts with Dr. Sarah Easter to Honduras. The group collaborated with Mission Lazarus to work within the communities on a service trip. Caleb Casas, a junior marketing and management major from Houston, was one of the students who went and served. Part of the trip entailed meeting with small business owners to help them with current endeavors and to develop new business ideas. Led by Dr. Sarah Easter and Erika Teilmann, a junior management major from Houston, the group of students met for several weeks before their departure to learn about the business climate of the communities they would be working amidst in Honduras. They researched the businesses, resource availability, education levels, income levels, and more. The group kept it a priority to remember that they were not the experts and that they need to trust the people that actually live and work with people in those communities, the people that understand the everyday circumstances, to determine the feasibility of an idea. The students were challenged to read Philippians 2:1-8 before going into the communities to prepare a servant heart within themselves and to learn of and how to imitate Christ’s humility.
Caleb and the other students met with locals in Namasigue and Cedeño, villages in Honduras, to help build existing businesses and develop new ideas. The people talked about how they would use their businesses to help out the community: to make it possible for everyone to have a little money to buy from one another, to send kids to school, to give to the church, to employ others, and more. In the Namasigue village, all of the businesses are tied together. If only a few people operate a business, then the rest of the village would be unable to purchase from them and would force business owners to sell to ‘coyotes,’ people from bigger cities who come to purchase products in the villages at an extremely low price. It seemed to Caleb that the people had an excellent grasp of how to operate a business in the village but desired feedback on their ideas. They taught the villagers basic accounting so that they could better run their businesses by keeping accurate records, financial statements, and balancing the cost of the business. Both the students and the villagers were able to learn a lot from each other. For example, they met with a woman who planned to sell pigs and wanted to start off with ten. The group encouraged her to start off with three and to buy three pigs every few months so that she had a cycle of product and a steady stream of income instead of trying to sell all of her pigs at the same time. The group suggested that she purchase a male and female to begin breeding so that she wouldn’t have to buy pigs to resell but the women explained that the time and money it takes to breed with the resources available to her was too great for her to ever make a profit.
The students also built latrines in the villages as a part of Mission Lazarus’ public health campaigns that aim to engage the community through health promotion and prevention and share essential health teachings with families and communities. The latrines were a tremendous step in both sanitation and privacy for families in the communities. Caleb was struck by how something as small as a latch on a bathroom door gave people basic human dignity. “In America, we don’t have to ever worry about finding a private bathroom to use no matter where we go,” said Caleb. “But the simple act of installing a two-dollar latch allowed these people to go about their business in private and gave them dignity. There was a man who had gone over eighty years without a private bathroom and I was struck by how often I take something like a toilet for granted.” Caleb was also moved by the Hondurans’ gratitude and willingness to work. “They didn’t want us to do the work for them but wanted to work alongside us,” he noted. For the families to even receive a latrine, they had to dig the hole themselves before people would come install the physical latrine. For some people, this meant digging a twelve-foot hole with nothing but a shovel and a chisel. One man chiseled through two feet of solid rock alone. Even though they had done all of this back-breaking work to lay the foundation for the latrines, when the students came to install them, the villagers worked alongside them, helping mix and lay concrete, drilling, and installing the roof. After they had finished installing one of the latrines, a man came and gave them mangoes, which was all he had to give. Caleb was amazed that the people were so grateful that they were willing to give up all that they had to say thank you to the students.
In Honduras, Caleb experienced and was impacted by was God’s purpose and design in bringing us to a specific time and place. Caleb’s grandfather was a pastor in Mexico but came to the US to start a Spanish-speaking congregation within Bammel Church in Houston. Caleb remembered hearing stories about his grandma growing up in Saltillo – no running water, an outhouse that was a mile away, playing soccer with rocks – and realized that, if it had not been for his grandfather saying “yes” to the Lord and leaving his work in Mexico, Caleb could have been in a similar situation to the people he was serving in Honduras. “I was serving what could have been my grandpa,” Caleb realized. “Maybe in three generations, like my family, those people could be in America or helping grow Honduras. You never know what impact you or God will have on people and their life trajectory.”
Another surreal moment that Caleb experienced in Honduras was meeting Luis, the preacher of the Honduran church the group was working with. Luis was born in Honduras but moved to the US and actually attended Caleb’s Bammel. Bammel Church sponsored Luis to attend the Baxter Institute, a seminary school in Guatemala. Caleb’s grandfather also taught classes at Baxter during Luis’ time there. Once Luis graduated, he had twenty-three churches where he could have served but felt a calling to go to Namasigue. Caleb was amazed at how God brought them together and connected them at this specific time and place where they were both serving together. “There were so many points in our lives where things could have happened differently,” Caleb said. “Nonetheless, God intersected our lives and that made an impact on me.”
Caleb was absolutely impacted during his time in Honduras. The opportunity to serve and work alongside the people in Namasigue and Cedeño showed him how God works in incredible and mind-blowing ways and His plan is always good. Caleb looks forward to the potential to return to Honduras soon and is even talking about going back this summer.
Dr. Brad Crisp officially began his tenure as the Dean of the College of Business Administration in June and has been building an agenda since for his new role. One of the items on that agenda has been to reach out to and connect with alumni from the College of Business and the School of Information Technology and Computing, giving alumni and friends an opportunity to meet or reacquaint themselves with Dr. Crisp as well as learning more about the state of our college and what our plans are for the future. Thus, the idea for the “Meet the Dean Tour” was born and implemented in partnership with the Alumni Relations Office.
Dr. Brad Crisp, Dean of the College of Business Administration
The tour began in Abilene with 56 alumni and friends and at each stop, Dr. Crisp illustrated ACU’s long standing success in business education and our recent path of progress with our School of IT and Computing. Along with our first event in Abilene, alumni and friends gathered in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Silicon Valley at networking breakfasts and lunches. Alumni who graduated within the past 10 years were invited to join Dr. Crisp for a “Beat the Dean” event at Top Golf in several of these cities, as they attempted to best the new Dean. It was a fun time of networking and Dr. Crisp was able to withstand the challenge brought by our young alums.
Young Alums in Dallas
Dr. Crisp aims to win
COBA Beat the Dean at Top Golf in Dallas
Not only were we able to reconnect with alumni, but we also met with parents of current students as well as prospective students and their families as they sought to learn more about the College and our programs and opportunities. Recent graduates were hard at work at these events, helping us connect students to internships and job opportunities in their organization. Alumni who have risen to leadership roles in their companies expressed their desire to create and sustain pipelines of ACU talent to their organizations. Many of our alums shared stories of the encouragement and strengthening they received both professionally and personally while attending ACU. They were encouraged by Dr. Crisp’s consistent reference to our heritage of business excellence, rooted in our personal commitment to living out the mission of Christ and bringing this mission to the workplace.
Meet the Dean lunch stop in Austin
Today, Dr. Crisp leads a College offering 5 business degrees and 4 technology degrees at our Abilene campus, the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy which is leading the nation in student engagement for entrepreneurship programs, and the new Lytle Center for Leadership and Faith Development which is continuing our Distinguished Speaker Series and Leadership Summit course. The reach of ACU’s mission to educate Christian servants and leaders has expanded with the on-line MBA program, offered through the ACU Dallas campus in addition to our residential Master of Accountancy program and additional on-line graduate programs are in the discussion phase. The College of Business enjoyed an enrollment of exactly 1,000 total students this fall and is positioned for additional growth. Our Master of Accountancy and Computer Science programs supply a steady stream of employers coming to campus to interview for talent as the changing landscape of business is driven by technology and entrepreneurship, demanding ethical leaders in this rapidly transforming environment.
Young alums at Beat the Dean in San Antonio
The opportunity to begin Dr. Crisp’s tenure by connecting with alumni was emphasized by an intentional effort to listen to and involve alumni and friends in our efforts to develop the next generation of business and technology servant leaders. All in attendance were encouraged to give us feedback via an on-line survey. If you were unable to attend one of the stops but would like to give feedback as we continue to shape the direction and future of ACU’s College of Business and School of Information Technology and Computing, please fill out the survey by clicking on this link.
Your support of our work to educate business and technology professionals for Christian service and leadership throughout the world is a great encouragement to us and we cannot achieve our goals without support from alumni and friends. Thank you!
What is your educational background?
BS Communication Disorders, (Speech Pathology).
What is your work background?
I have been at home with my children for the past 13 years, with small part-time jobs on the side. Now that they are all in school, I’m enjoying the opportunity to work for the Griggs Center.
What do you do at ACU/COBA?
I am the Springboard Program Coordinator for the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy. I help with fundraising, coordinate our business model competitions for both students and the community, and provide training events for aspiring entrepreneurs.
What’s the best part of working with students?
I enjoy their energy, creativity and enthusiasm.
Outside of ACU, what passions and hobbies do you have?
I love being with my husband and four children. I love to travel and eat and experience other cultures–this may be because I’m a ‘Third Culture Kid.’ I enjoy reading and singing. Also, I love to climb things. Especially trees.
The Heflin Family
What is a good, early story about your first job or when you were in college?
My very first job was scooping ice cream for a family-owned, homemade ice cream shop. I had a very strong right arm at the end of that summer!
Do you do any charity or non-profit work?
My family and I are a mentors for arriving refugee families through the International Rescue Committee. These families have become our real life heroes as well as our dear friends. Their stories are humbling and inspiring. I am very passionate about serving this community of people and would love to tell you more if you’re interested in volunteering!
Karen and Houston Heflin
Who is your role model and why?
Corrie ten Boom and Rosa Parks- I admire their strength and tenacity and their willingness to take great risks for ideas they believed to be important.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Teleportation. This would allow me to travel anytime to anywhere.
What is something that students might be surprised to find out about you?
I lived in Iceland in the late 80’s.
COBA encourages students to go outside of the classroom and gain real working experience from companies in the business world via internships. In addition to classroom preparation for job and internship searches, the COBA Connections and Career Development team aids students by connecting them with internships to businesses and industries that the individual student is interested in. These internship experiences allow students to learn from experienced mentors and discover what field of work they may have a passion or interest for. Some of the companies COBA students have interned with in the last year include World Vision, Holt Lunsford Commercial, PFSweb, USAA, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Northern Trust.
Cason Ford, a senior marketing major from Burleson, TX, learned a lot about the oil and gas industry through his internship with Dunaway Associates, L.P., an engineering consulting services company. At Dunaway, Cason spent time working with a project manager in the office as well as working on a land surveying crew, learning about project management and the process of business operations. After graduation, Cason will work as a financial professional for AXA Advisors in Austin. With the help of the COBA Connections Career Development office, Cason was able to connect with an ACU alum who is on the AXA team in Austin. In addition to the Connections Office, Cason is also thankful for the experience he gained with Dr. Terry Pope and the STAR (Student Trading and Research) program, enabling him to learn the business terminology and financial knowledge that he will need for his career.
“I feel confident entering this position because of the knowledge and skills I have learned while studying in COBA. I have learned the value of possessing and practicing with an entrepreneurial spirit, which is what I will need in my career,” says Cason.
Connor Osburn, a senior finance major from Southlake, TX, and the current President of Wildcat Ventures, has interned with both Holt Lunsford Commercial and Heil Trailer International. While at Holt Lunsford Commercial, he learned the ins and outs of commercial real estate, discovering how new developments can reflect the strength of a region’s economy and that location is key in any real estate investment. Going forward, Connor would like to pursue a finance role, specifically in analytics to identify young, promising companies. He is also interested in alternative energy/green technology and can see himself working with projects and companies in this industry.
Connor says, “COBA and the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy exposed me to interesting new ideas, creative thinkers, inspiring entrepreneurs and opportunities to learn about all different types of career paths. I owe a lot to the COBA professors who have been more than willing to offer me advice or point me in the right direction.”
Natalie Lemieux, a junior from McKinney, TX, has excelled with her internship experience. Natalie is pursuing a major in information systems with a minor in international studies and information technology. Last summer, she interned with Lennox International as a Commercial Business Systems Intern. Her biggest takeaway from the internship was learning how to deal with project management and the flexibility within handling those projects. This summer, she will be interning with PricewaterhouseCoopers with the Technology Consulting team. Eventually, Natalie wants to pursue her MBA in international business. Natalie is grateful for the Connections Office and COBA professors, like Dr. Brad Crisp, who helped her find these particular internships.
“COBA’s atmosphere really helped to prepare me to be in a professional environment. I know that I have set myself apart from many other applicants that have applied for these positions because of the relevant hands-on experience and projects I have done inside of the classroom,” says Natalie.
Cason, Connor, and Natalie are only a few of many students who have interned while at ACU. Through faculty and the Connections Office, COBA aims to provide students with internship opportunities in the specific career fields that students are interested in pursuing. Internships are the perfect way for students to gain exposure to different companies and industries, allowing them to gain an advantage when looking for jobs after graduation. Congrats to all students who have interned and are planning to intern this next summer.
Sixteen ACU students had the opportunity to study Social Entrepreneurship at City Square in Dallas during a January short course. The class was taught by COBA professor, Dr. Laura Phillips. In the short one-week time period, the class covered a wide range of topics related to starting and running a social enterprise (nonprofit or for-profit that has a social mission at its core). Speakers who currently run these types of enterprises, as well as those who consult and advise these organizations, came to share with the class about their own unique experiences. In addition, the class included student presentations on various topics and case study discussions. Students were also taken on a tour of City Square, hearing about how the business operates and ways they are trying to expand.
Many of the speakers were ACU alums, including Robyn Wise, Scott Orr, and Don Crisp. Scott Orr, an ACU and COBA grad, has served in many roles for nonprofit organizations as well as for-profit companies. He is currently the Vice President of Public Affairs for Fidelity Investments.
Scott’s Mantra: Using strengths to accomplish greatness.
Jerita’s Mantra: Bloom where you are planted.
Jerita Howard, an Abilene resident, also came to speak to the class. Jerita is the owner of One Smart Cookie, an online gourmet cookie and brownie gift package company. Like Scott, Jerita has also served in various roles throughout her professional career. Both of these entrepreneurs provided valuable insights on business operations and social enterprises.
Dr. Laura Phillips loved the broad mix of majors that were represented in the class this year. She says, “The class succeeds because of the knowledge, experience, and honesty of the 14 guest speakers. While not all of the students who took the class plan to start a social enterprise, I think all of the students benefited from the class.” After taking the class, she hopes students feel equipped to work with social ventures in the way that fits their life and career goals.
Emily Adkins, a sophomore Pre-Physical Therapy major from Irving, TX, enjoyed taking the class at City Square. She feels like she has learned the basics of social enterprises and that she could comfortably work in this type of environment now. “This class really pushed me outside of my comfort zone in a good way! I love social enterprises and I can see myself working for one some day. Listening to these speakers opened my eyes to how these organizations help people in an effective way.”
In November, the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy hosted the first annual Startup Week. The CEO student organization along with the Griggs Center were busy with several activities during the week, including an Alumni Entrepreneurship dinner on November 18, a CEO chapel on the 19th with guest speaker Toby Thomas, and ending with the final Elevator Pitch competition after the chapel. The goal of the Springboard Elevator Pitch competition was to get students to create and present their idea, giving them the opportunity to gain real experience working with entrepreneurs. Three weeks prior to Startup Week, participants presented their Elevator Pitch ideas in front of a group of local entrepreneurs and ACU faculty members and learned how they would be judged as well as the deadlines for the competition. At the dinner on November 18, the 10 finalists were announced. The next day, the pitches were heard and the winner received $1,500 cash for the idea.
The winner of the Elevator Pitch was COBA major, Colby Hatchett, a junior marketing major from Fort Worth. His idea was The Mullet, a restaurant concept where parents could enjoy a nice meal at the front of the restaurant while their children would be fully taken care of in the back of the restaurant. After the pitch, Colby said he was incredibly grateful to meet entrepreneurs working in the marketplace and gain real experience from the competition.
Rudy Garza, President of CEO, was excited that students were able to meet and connect with ACU alums and other entrepreneurs. At the dinner, students were seated at tables with the entrepreneurs and were able to hear their stories and advice for those considering entrepreneurship as well as making valuable connections for potential career opportunities. When asked the effect of COBA with the Elevator Pitch, Rudy said, “Because the classes are smaller and the quality of the faculty is excellent, COBA students always excel in the Springboard Challenge competitions. The presenters are stronger and seem comfortable speaking in front of the crowd. Through the interactions between professors and students, students gain major insight into what entrepreneurship looks like, which is incredibly beneficial for them in this case.”
Overall, the competition was a great success. Some unique ideas were presented during the pitch and it was great to have so many ACU and COBA alumni back on campus. COBA is proud to see such amazing business and Christian leadership in the marketplace. Again, congratulations to COBA student, Colby Hatchett, on winning the competition!
“The Springboard Challenge is a great enhancement to COBA’s culture of ideation, creativity, and innovation. This competition pushes our students and culture in a good way!” says Dr. Rick Lytle, Dean of the College of Business.